Belfast Telegraph

Mercedes apologise to Hamilton as Vettel ends win drought

 

Successful day: Charles Leclerc and Sebastien Vettell celebrate with Ferrari
Successful day: Charles Leclerc and Sebastien Vettell celebrate with Ferrari

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team have apologised to their star driver, who claimed he was robbed of an "easy" victory in Singapore following a strategy blunder.

The world champion finished only fourth yesterday as Sebastian Vettel saw off Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc at the Marina Bay Street Circuit to claim a much-needed win. Red Bull's Max Verstappen completed the podium.

Hamilton had been running in second place, but was left in no-man's land when Mercedes elected against reacting to an early pit stop by Vettel - one which enabled the German to get the jump on his Ferrari team-mate Leclerc and ultimately bring to an end his torrid 13-month losing streak.

The Briton plodded around the 23-corner course on ageing rubber for seven laps longer than Vettel and six more than Leclerc. By the time Mercedes did pull Hamilton in, it left him in a net fourth, and his hopes of victory up in smoke.

It would have been worse had Valtteri Bottas not followed a Mercedes order to slow down and ensure Hamilton did not become vulnerable to attack from Red Bull's Alex Albon.

Mercedes' chief strategist, James Vowles, moved to acknowledge that it was his faux pas which cost Hamilton the shot at a hat-trick of Singapore wins.

"There wasn't a driver mistake, but a mistake in the strategy, and James, with his wide shoulders, said, 'I have f***** it up'," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. "We had a package capable of pole, an opportunity to win, and we made too many mistakes this weekend, with too many opportunities lost. The mood in the team is one of annoyance."

Hamilton said he had urged his team to risk the undercut (stopping before your rival to take advantage of fresh tyres) in the pre-race meeting, but that his request fell on deaf ears.

"It's painful for us because we could have easily won," Hamilton said. "I was asking them to do the undercut, to take the risk and go for it, but they didn't. Two other teams got it right today and leapfrogged us."

Hamilton may have been denied a ninth victory of the year, but he was able to extend his championship lead to 65 points over Bottas, who finished fifth.

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